Zacatecas, Zacatecas - thank the Heavens for Zacatecas (week one)

Sunday August 3
We headed to the Market and found Ana and her table of leather bound books. She did finish our travel log in leather, it even has a leather bookmark. We took her picture and she wanted a copy e-mailed to her. It is amazing that we did the whole transaction with her speaking only Spanish and us speaking only English.

Ken was feeling sick feeling today and took five Pepto – we are blaming the previous greasy taco, the Parral water or some warmish egg roll consumed the day before. Ken worked on the blog in the morning and we headed down the hill to town in the afternoon.

Next on the agenda, we went to buy a mouse for Ken to speed up work on the blog. The store Copple sold items on credit with payment options. It was set up like old Consumers Distributing and easily handled the transaction.

We discovered that the extremely adorable pooch near the bakery, hangs out (lives is not the right word as they are set up on the concrete bench outside the church) with the church beggar man. The dog sleeps on a blanket with a cardboard box for shelter. He appears well fed and loved. He is loyal to the old man.

We ate supper at the Cafe Acropolis. A nice restaurant with pictures of famous people that have eaten there, we saw Jane Fonda and Gregory Peck's pictures from a shoot they did in the area in 1988 for a movie called The Gringo. Well, maybe Jane got good food but we are not going back, we give it a two thumbs down.

Ken just wasn't feeling well and I was tired so we spent the evening laying around in the van. We were early to bed this night. Loud banging sounds woke
us up around 11 that night. It was the end of the International Festival. We woke up to fireworks going off right outside our rear van window. They were so close, very amazing, bright and loud. There is zero wait time between the bang and the fireworks at this distance. The van actually shook when they would launch a big one. Again, only in Mexico. The next day we found the gun powder pellets scattered around the street the next block from us.

Saturday August 2
We, of course, didn't get going as quickly as possible in the morning. This was the day of the 7 kilometre hike to Guadalupe, the next town to us.

But once started we walked a very short distance to the Teleferico (cable car) which would transport us over the city of Zacatecas to La Bufa.

You could see the patchwork, which is the city of Zacatecas. Once arriving at La Bufa we could tell it was a powerful spot. This was the battleground where the Mexican army led by Poncho Villa overtook the Huerta loyalists (dictator's army).

We trekked on down the hill to the other side going towards Guadalupe, not having a back road map we were not sure where to go. Ken thinks I stepped off the path and several rattle snake rattled their tail. We walked on a 1,000 year old stone road. Which was a nice find in the middle of what seemed like no where.

After walking for what seemed like a very long time we stumbled on the grounds where the circus was parked. There was a darling dromedary (one humped camel to those of you who could care less about the exact name). He had the biggest, knowing eyes. He actually wanted to be petted. The big cats just had their cages washed and they were sliding on the metal, wet surface. The animals were obviously well cared for and likely loved. The dromedary was a sensitive soul who needed extra attention and love.

Somehow on this journey we stumbled on another good find along the way. It was a park, no traffic, no fumes. The park had a bike, road park for teaching children bike safety. This took us all the way to Guadalupe.

Guadalupe is a rancher's town. We wanted to leave almost as soon as we got there, of course we had just walked seven to ten kilometers. The one thing we did enjoy was drinking and eating coconut out of the big, recently downed coconut. I had never had such a thing before. oh yes the pile of wool next to the spinning wheel and loom was neat.

We were tired from the walking and sat down accross the street from the big church in Guadalupe, sure enough a wedding was going on, we waited to see the bride arrive.

We took the bus back to Zacatecas. The bus had curtains inside to block out the heat. The bus driver did have change and a cross with Jesus on it attached to his sun-visor, and the ride was only $.35 each. Other than that it was pretty much the same as a bus ride in Canada, oh except the driver drove like a madman with both doors open.

We somehow found our way to the little Italian restaurant we liked so much – La Traviata. It gets a two thumbs up (price, menu, setting, service, bathrooms, and of course the food). I even had the same dish with prawns.

We took a taxi up the hill. I practically collapsed in the taxi I was so tired. We did try to walk home so we caught the taxi part way up the hill. Foolish Canadians.

Friday August 1
Today, Ken gave the final shipping instructions for our van parts from Austin, Texas. We decided to hike east from our hotel wondering around a part of the city we hadn't yet been to. We ended up downtown. I realized I absolutely had to wear a hat even if hat head was the outcome, better than baked brain. Then we realized we were hungry and there was nothing to eat but candy, chips or pop. They have very small stores in the residential area like we used to have in Canada. We stumbled in the heat to the area of restaurants, we were very hungry and decided to eat in a greasy taco restaurant. By greasy, I mean deep fried, he fills the taco up cheese and all, then into the deep fryer. The atmosphere was not of cleanth, luckily the bathroom was out of order preventing me from even going in. We settled for this booth of a restaurant because of posters (great art work) that had been hand printed and taped on the wall, Ken figured is the artist liked the place, we thought it must be ok. The food did taste good.

We had a siesta at the Franciscan Monks restored building. I looked at glasses again.

We found a great place that sold cakes and other pastries along with a very adorable pooch. The church pooch was wearing a dirty t-shirt, heaven only knows why, because it was rather warm that day. More to come on the cute pup and the bakery that Ken loves (cappuccino and a cake 26 pesos).

Just after, we ate supper at a high class restaurant – Sanborns – I was sick. The greasy taco likely being the culprit. A late supper at Sanborns gave us a balcony to see the traffic on Hidalgo Street.

Thursday July 31
We ate out in the hotel's garden as usual.

I painted another rose and Ken ordered the van part from Austin, Texas. We took our laundry in. When we finally got going, we walked from one end of downtown to the other.

We ate lunch at a higher class seafood restaurant, which was on the second floor called La Gaviota. You could look out of the open window onto the street below. The waiter brought out two creamy sauces and three bottled home-made sauces to try - exquisite. After we dined, the wind blew the doors on the window open and tossed napkins, etc. all around. Someone at the table next to us said, "they speak English". Another said, "That is our north wind, it blows cold." We found out they were family visitors from California and were sitting with the restaurant owner. We got the low down on where to go for silver, dining and tequila drinking on the back of a burro (we passed on the drunken burro thing. Our reasoning was – do we want to get drunk with a bunch of people we don't know and can't speak to, although maybe ...).

We caught another Folk Festival (really Donna just needed to use the bathroom - ed.) show with Mexican formal dancing.

I was seriously trying to find glasses, they are supposed to be cheaper in Mexico. Some places the frames do seem cheaper, in others they seem the same, we don't know about the lens yet.

In the evening we wondered up the hills in the residential area. Everyone seemed to be okay with us being there. In fact, we met a man who introduced himself as a guide. He had the most wonderful way of saying good bye – "Zacatecas is you house". He was welcoming us to his city and wanted us to feel at home. We stayed out late because it was not raining.

Wednesday July 30
We started the day with breakfast out in the centre courtyard of the hotel. The gardener (was telling us, we think) the sprinklers were coming on and we would get wet. We were done eating so decided to head back to the van, on the way I leaned over to smell one of the many roses in the grounds. As we walked away I heard "damas, damas" looking back I saw the gardener pluck a bright red rose and hold it out for me. The staff here is so nice. I went back to the van and sketched and painted the rose. Ken working on the computer was finding parts for the van.

In Mexico we have found virtually no coin laundries. You either get for free at hotels or take it in for someone else to wash, dry and fold. We had found such a laundry suitable and close enough that we could take it down the hill to be washed. Here they charge only 14 pesos per kilogram. We took our first load in.

We hiked around lots that day, being distracted by everything, wondering in and out of shops aimlessly killing the day.

The Folk Festival was on and we took in another show.

We toured the Cultural Centre of Zacatecas. It was located in a museum type of building that was huge. One gallery was full of very, very old religious painting. The other galleries houses Huichol artifacts – very colorful.

We got really tired from walking and paid $4.00 each to ride on a bus for twenty minutes. We listened in Spanish to the history of the town – learned nothing. As we were on the top deck of a double decker bus we had to duck to miss the overhead wires.

Tuesday July 29
We talked to the German couple at the next campsite. They were heading back to Mexico City to fly home to Germany. She taught German in Mexico City last year. They had left their big, old truck in Mexico and flew back to holiday here. The man was saying it would be difficult to sell his truck because the Mexican's only purchase on payment. They told us of the other Hotel del Bosques that was quite nice.

We drove back to the tire dealer to find out if they could get the parts to fix the van. They couldn't! They told us if we got the parts they could install them. So it begins.

We decided to switch to a different camping area (the other Hotel del Bosques) because it was quieter and closer to the old town centro. Ken spent most of the day finding out about the repair and where to get the parts from. Luckily this new place has good internet.

I am sketching a painting a cactus that is in front of the hotel. I can't stay outside and sketch because the shade disappeared. It is very hot in the sun. Around supper we hike downtown passed the cable car to the centro. We took pictures along the way so as to not become lost. We walked about three and a half hours in total. We started out the walk after visiting a huge, baroque church. The church was from the 1700s. We stopped and said a prayer.

We got stuck in a down pour and bought a pair of umbrellas.

Monday July 28
We started the day going into two different tire places trying to get our side-wall tire separation replaced. We found a suitable place with a manager that spoke a little English, plus the lead mechanic's name was Pepe. Before the actual work was started we went for lunch rather than wait our turn at the garage. We went for lunch at a place called Bodega Aurrera (think Superstore). We returned to the garage and ate our lunch while they changed the tire on the van. I painted an artichoke. Ken had the mechanic remove the right front tire and brakes and spin the wheel. SURE ENOUGH THE WHEEL BEARING WAS BROKEN. I'll let Ken describe the gory details of getting parts for a van while traveling in Mexico.

We decided to tourist it up a bit for the rest of the day. I got to touch the tail of a cheetah. His tail was sticking out of the truck that advertised the circus and drove around the city.

We went to the museum of abstract art. Ken described it as very mechanical.

We hiked downtown to a park and to Alameda Park. Zacatecas is having its huge annual international folk festival this week with dancers and musicians from all over the world. What we saw that night were very Spanish, Mexican dancers.

Sunday July 27
We had breakfast with Mamo (the man) and Francquois (the woman) who camped right beside us. They come from the same city as Frida Kahlo, Francquois spoke French, German, Spanish and some English. Mamo order my breakfast which had cut up big green cactus leaves (napole) in a red hottish sauces on fried eggs – delicious. He ordered the sauce mild just for my tender Canadian taste buds. Ken was able to really communicate with them because he took years of French in school. They had travelled to Vancouver Island previously, so we had lots to talk about. She was an elementary school teacher like me.

After saying our farewells we went for a drive in the country then into centro of Zacatecas. I even wore my hat so as to not bake my brain. We saw many cobblestone streets with homes built on hills. It is similar to Guanajuato but smaller, less people, less people bugging you. We found parking quickly on a back road near the international hostel.

We walked to their big cathedral (Santo Damingo);

then got out looking for a particular restaurant which is Los Doradas De Villa (we nicknamed it "No Soup for You" because they were turning groups of people away for reasons we did not understand).

This restaurant locked its doors. We couldn't get in and sat on a bench in front of the doors thinking we were the first in line.

A group of Mexicans came by claiming to have a reservation. After pounding on the door and some discussion they were turned away, "no soup for you". Ken attracted the attention of the man behind the open door and stated, "dos Canadiennes". We were seated in what I can only describe as an immaculate combination of artistry and design, Mexican style.

The meal was fabulous. I ordered the Zacatecas enchiladas. The meal came with the standard nacho chips and we ordered guacamole which, when the waiter delivered, he loaded my first chip with an artistic flare (fried cactus, tomato, cilantro mix). He showed us he loved his work. We will return if they will let us in.

We went for a walk after eating.

We saw, only in Mexico, a lion and a tiger in the back of a truck advertising the circus was in town. I am sure there will be more to come about this event. We happened upon one of the many events on for the International Folk Festival.

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